This is the first of Rix’s requests from the What I Want What You Want Fundraiser. It ties in with Hatred and is on the darker end of Dragons Next Door, as much of the self-hating Dweomer stories are
Belinda had not, for a long time, questioned Cathal, his motivations, his cause, or his methods.
He was an immensely charismatic figure, which might excuse her from some of this, and his cause resonated with her upbringing, which excused a little more.
But for five years, she – along with a small group of dedicated hunters – followed him and took his lead. She hunted with him – they hunted with him – tracking down the deviants from humanity and eliminating them.
It seemed a noble cause. They hurt humanity. Not only did Cathal say so, but she’d seen it with her own eyes. They damaged humanity when they pretended to be part of it, they tainted the bloodlines with their blood, and they blurred the line between other and human until there was no line at all anymore. And none of this could be accepted.
“Please…” Her recent target had woken up sooner than expected. Sooner being at all. Bound in iron and wrapped in silk, they didn’t normally do much except end. They’d never plead with Belinda before.
Manners pushed her into answering. “I can’t untie you.”
“I’m not asking you to. I know what you are. I know what your people to do my people. It’s too late for me.”
It sounded far too human. Belinda moved to tape its mouth shut, but it hissed out another plea, so quiet and so urgent that she had to stop. “No, please, please… my daughter.”
Belinda stopped, her hand inches from the thing’s mouth. She’d never thought about them having daughters before. Children. “Your daughter?”
“She’s upstairs. She’s in her bedroom. Please… please don’t let her see me like this.”
“Is this a trick?” Her hand still hovered. They could be tricky. They could fool you.
“No, No, I swear it on iron and stone.” The thing winced as the iron wrapped around it burned it. An oath made like that normally had to be tortured out of them.
“Why?” Belinda had to ask. “Why swear?” Why did she…
“It’s my daughter.”
“Dweomers don’t have family.”
“I can’t lie to you, I swore by iron and stone. Whatever they told you about dweomers, that part is true.”
“You’re saying someone lied to me.”
“Everybody lies.” The thing twitched and winced. “Except, right now, me. Or anyone else you bind with iron and stone.”
“Any dweomer, you mean.”
“Anyone who can be bound. You’d be surprised how many humans aren’t as human as they think they are.” The thing pulled against its bonds. “Promise me. Promise me that she won’t see me like this. Take her away, give her to a foster family. but don’t let this taint her.”
“If you have a daughter…. won’t she be a dweomer as well?”
“Not always.” The woman struggled. “Please. Please, not for me. But for her…”
“You have a daughter. And you care about her.”
“Yes. Yes, I love her.” And she did not flinch. “More than anything in the world, I love her.”
“Dweomers can’t love.”
“You have been lied to. You have been lied to so much.” On the floor, the mother rolled her shoulders. “You have been lied to. But I will not lie to you. By blood and stone, iron and flesh.” She twitched and winced on the floor. “I will not lie to you. As long as I live. I have a daughter and I love her.”
“Speaking of love doens’t burn you.” Belinda looked down at the woman. “It’s supposed to burn you as bad as iron does.”
“As I said, you have been lied to. My daughter… I beg of you. My daughter.”
Belinda took a long breath. “I need you to promise me something else.”
“Anything. Anything, for my daughter.”
She needed to stop saying that. Belinda could hear someone moving upstairs. She could hear sounds that sounded like her own daughters. She could imagine a child walking downstairs and seeing its mother dead… finding its mother gone, never to return.
“Promise me no retaliation for this day.”
“No…” The woman’s eyes had shut. Now they flew open again. “I swear to you that I will bring no retaliation down on you for your actions of this day. I swear it..”
“That’s enough.” Belinda put her hand over the woman’s mouth. “No need to burn it into your flesh. You are a mother and so am I.”
She cut the silk bindings loose and unlocked the iron shackles. “I have to run. I have to run, before they find me. And you do, too, you and your daughter. They won’t forgive either of us for this.”
“Take your child and run.” The woman, the dweomer mother, stood and shook out her limbs. “Now that I know that they are after me, I will be able to stall them quite a while before they think to come after you.”
They met each other’s eye, and then the dweomer woman winked. “If I do it right, they’ll never know you survived.”
“Thank you.” Belinda picked up her kit. She could use the tools for something, she was sure.
“What will you do? Besides run?”
She looked down at her kit and considered. “Learn. I have been lied to, you said. So now I will have to learn.”
“A noble goal. But first…”
“First, we run.” And she ran.
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